Most of the objects by which Phoenician culture is characterised are those that have been recovered scattered among Phoenician colonies and trading posts; such carefully excavated colonial sites are in Spain, Sicily, Sardinia and Tunisia. The sites of many Phoenician cities, like Sidon and Tyre, by contrast, are still occupied, unavailable to archaeology except in highly restricted chance sites, usually much disturbed. Sarepta is the exception, the one Phoenician city in the heartland of the culture that has been unearthed and thoroughly studied.
Sarepta is mentioned for the first time in the voyage of an Egyptian in the 14th century BCE.Obadiah says it was the northern boundary of Canaan: "And the exiles of this host of the sons of Israel who are among the Canaanites as far as Zarephath (Heb. ?), and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad, will possess the cities of the south." The medieval lexicographer, David ben Abraham Al-Alf?s?, identifies Zarephath with the city of ?arfend (Judeo-Arabic: ). Originally Sidonian, the town passed to the Tyrians after the invasion of Shalmaneser IV, 722 BCE. It fell to Sennacherib in 701.
The first Books of Kings (17:8-24) describes the city as being subject to Sidon in the time of Ahab, and says that the prophet Elijah, after leaving the brook Cherith, multiplied the meal and oil of the widow of Zarephath (Sarepta) and raised her son from the dead there, an incident also referred to by Jesus in Luke's Gospel.
Sarepta is the location of a Shia shrine to Abu Dhar al-Ghifari, a Companion of Muhammad. The shrine is believed to have been built at least several centuries after Abu Dhar's death.
After the Islamization of the area, in 1185, the Greekmonk Phocas, making a gazetteer of the Holy Land (De locis sanctis, 7), found the town almost in its ancient condition. A century later, according to Burchard of Mount Sion, it was in ruins and contained only seven or eight houses. Even after the Crusaders' kingdoms had collapsed, the Roman Catholic Church continued to appoint purely titular bishops of Sarepta, the most noted being Thomas of Wroclaw who held the post from 1350 until 1378.
Sarepta as a Christian city was mentioned in the Itinerarium Burdigalense; the Onomasticon of Eusebius and in Jerome; by Theodosius and Pseudo-Antoninus who, in the 6th century call it a small town but very Christian. It contained at that time a church dedicated to St. Elias (Elijah). The Notitia episcopatuum, a list of bishoprics made in Antioch in the 6th century, speaks of Sarepta as a suffragan see of Tyre; all of its bishops are unknown.
Nicolas Bureau, O.F.M. (1519.12.02 - death 1551) as Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Tournai (Belgium) (1519.12.02 - 1551)
Guillaume Hanwere (1552.04.27 - 1560) as Auxiliary Bishop of above Tournai (Belgium) (1552.04.27 - 1560)
Johannes Kaspar Stredele 'Austrian) (1631.12.15 - death 1642.12.28) as Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Passau (Bavaria, Germany) (1631.12.15 - 1642.12.28)
Wojciech Ignacy Bardzi?ski (1709.01.28 - death 1722?) as Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Kujawy-Pomorze (Poland) (1709.01.28 - 1722?)
Charles-Antoine de la Roche-Aymon (1725.06.11 - 1730.10.02) as Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Limoges (France) (1725.06.11 - 1730.10.02); later Bishop of Tarbes (France) ([1729.12.27] 1730.10.02 - 1740.11.11), Metropolitan Archbishop of Toulouse (France) ([1740.01.10] 1740.11.11 - 1752.12.18), Metropolitan Archbishop of Narbonne (France) ([1752.10.02] 1752.12.18 - 1763.01.24), Metropolitan Archbishop of Reims (France) ([1762.12.05] 1763.01.24 - death 1777.10.27), created Cardinal-Priest with no Title assigned (1771.12.16 - 1777.10.27)
Johann Anton Wallreuther (1731.03.05 - 1734.01.16) as Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Worms (Germany) (1731.03.05 - 1734.01.16)
Jean de Cairol de Madaillan (1760.01.28 - 1770.01.29) as Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Narbonne (France) (1760.01.28 - ?); later Bishop of Vence (France) (1770.01.29 - 1771.12.16), Bishop of Grenoble (France) (1771.12.16 [1772.01.23] - 1779.12.10)
Jean-Denis de Vienne (1775.12.18 - death 1800) as Auxiliary Bishop of Lyon (France) (1775.12.18 - 1800)
Jean-François Jamot (1874.02.03 - 1882.07.11) as only Apostolic Vicar of Northern Canada (Canada) (1874.02.03 - 1882.07.11); next (see) promoted first Bishop of Peterborough (Canada) (1882.07.11 - death 1886.05.04)
Antonio Scotti (1882.09.25 - 1886.01.15) as Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Benevento (Italy) (1882.09.25 - 1886.01.15); next Bishop of Alife (Italy) (1886.01.15 - retired 1898.03.24), emeritate as Titular Bishop of Tiberiopolis (1898.03.24 - death 1919.06.10)
François-Louis Auvity (1933.06.02 - 1937.08.14) as Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of Bourges (France) (1933.06.02 - 1937.08.14); later Bishop of Mende (France) (1937.08.14 - retired 1945.09.11), emeritate as Titular Bishop of Dionysiana (1945.09.11 - death 1964.02.15)
The low tell on the seashore was excavated by James B. Pritchard over five years from 1969 to 1974.
Civil war in Lebanon put an end to the excavations.
The site of the ancient town is marked by the ruins on the shore to the south of the modern village, about eight miles to the south of Sidon, which extend along the shore for a mile or more. They are in two distinct groups, one on a headland to the west of a fountain called 'Ain el-?antara, which is not far from the shore. Here was the ancient harbor which still affords shelter for small craft. The other group of ruins, to the south, consists of columns, sarcophagi and marble slabs, indicating a city of considerable importance.
Pritchard's excavations revealed many artifacts of daily life in the ancient Phoenician city of Sarepta: pottery workshops and kilns, artifacts of daily use and religious figurines, numerous inscriptions that included some in Ugaritic. Pillar worship is traceable from an 8th-century shrine of Tanit-Ashtart, and a seal with the city's name made the identification secure. The local Bronze Age-Iron Age stratigraphy was established in detail; absolute dating depends in part on correlations with Cypriote and Aegean stratigraphy.
The climax of the Sarepta discoveries at Sarafand is the cult shrine of "Tanit/Astart", who is identified in the site by an inscribed votive ivory plaque, the first identification of Tanit in her homeland. The site revealed figurines, further carved ivories, amulets and a cultic mask.
Other uses of the name
In Hebrew after the Diaspora, the name Zarephath (?, ts-r-f-t, Tsarfat) is used to mean France, perhaps because the Hebrew letters ts-r-f, if reversed, become f-r-ts. This hypothesis is from a French word-building tool called verlan. That usage is retained in daily use in contemporary Israel.
A strain of the West Nile virus is called 'Sarafend'. Although the origins of the strain name are unknown, it is possible that the virus strain was first isolated in this area.
^James B. Pritchard, SAREPTA. A Preliminary Report on the Iron Age. Excavations of the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, 1970-72. With contributions by William P. Anderson; Ellen Herscher; Javier Teixidor, University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, 1975, ISBN0-934718-24-5
^James B. Pritchard, Sarepta in History and Tradition, in J. Reumann (ed.). Understanding the Sacred Text: Essays in honor of Morton S. Enslin on the Hebrew Bible and Christian beginnings, pp. 101-114, Judson Press, 1972, ISBN0-8170-0487-4
Pritchard, James B. Recovering Sarepta, a Phoenician City: Excavations at Sarafund, 1969-1974, University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania (Princeton: Princeton University Press) 1978, ISBN0-691-09378-4
William P. Anderson, Sarepta I: The late bronze and Iron Age strata of area II.Y : the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania excavations at Sarafand, Lebanon (Publications de l'Universite libanaise), Département des publications de l'Universite Libanaise, 1988
Issam A. Khalifeh, Sarepta II: The Late Bronze and Iron Age Periods of Area Ii.X, University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, 1988, ISBN99943-751-5-6
Robert Koehl, Sarepta III: the Imported Bronze & Iron Age, University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, 1985, ISBN99943-751-7-2
James B. Pritchard, Sarepta IV: The Objects from Area Ii.X, University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, 1988, ISBN99943-751-9-9
Lloyd W. Daly, A Greek-Syllabic Cypriot Inscription from Sarafand, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Bd. 40, pp. 223-225, 1980
Dimitri Baramki, A Late Bronze Age tomb at Sarafend, ancient Sarepta, Berytus, vol. 12, pp. 129-42, 1959
Charles Cutler Torrey, The Exiled God of Sarepta, Berytus, vol. 9, pp. 45-49, 1949